Is air travel on the rebound? TSA reports a week of passenger growth

Apr 28, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The dramatic falloff in U.S. airline passengers may have hit bottom, judging from a recent uptick in screening numbers from the Transportation Security Administration.

The agency had been screening more than 2 million travelers on most days earlier this year, but those numbers cratered as the coronvirus pandemic took a swift hold in the U.S.

The nadir may have come on April 14, when the agency screened just 87,534 passengers — down a whopping 96% percent from the 2.1 million screened less than a month earlier on March 8. Since traffic plummeted to that record low, the total number of screened passengers has generally been hovering between 90,000 and 105,000 daily travelers.

While there is still some fluctuation, the numbers have headed up during the past week, rising from 92,859 passengers on April 21 to nearly 120,000 on Monday. Those numbers are still only about 5% of what was being counted on the same day in 2019, but it has been trending higher.

Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more airline news.

The total on Sunday — 128,875 — was the highest since April 3. Monday also marked the fifth-consecutive day that the TSA counted more than 100,000 travelers at its checkpoints, giving it a run of six-digit figures for the first time since the first week of April.

Whether the gradual increase represents the beginning of a recovery or just a temporary upward blip remains to be seen. But it comes as some states slowly begin to reopen following coronavirus-related restrictions on movement.

Read more: Travel may look different after the pandemic subsides.

Even so, the number of screenings remains tiny compared to what was once considered normal. On Monday, the TSA screened just 119,854 travelers, compared to more than 2.4 million travelers a year ago.

With airlines already planning to maintain skeletal networks into the summer, it’s unlikely U.S. airports will return to seven-figure passenger screening numbers any time soon. But it is possible that the bottom has been reached when it comes to the smallest number of passengers traversing through TSA checkpoints in the U.S.

Read more: What it’s like to fly in the U.S. right now

Read more: Global Entry enrollment suspended until June 1.

Featured photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The All-New United Quest℠ Card

WELCOME OFFER: Up to 100,000 bonus miles


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X miles on United® purchases

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80K bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 20K bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
  • $250 Annual Fee
  • Earn 3X miles on United® purchases, 2X miles at restaurants, on select streaming services & all other travel, 1X on all other purchases
  • Earn 3X miles on United Airlines purchases
  • Earn 2X miles at restaurants and on select streaming services
  • Earn 2X miles on all other travel
  • Earn 1X mile on all other purchases
  • Each year, receive a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits. Terms apply.
Regular APR
16.49% to 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent, Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.